Hundreds of Air Canada passengers scrambled to find alternative flights at the Vancouver International Airport Friday after a group of pilots called in sick, cancelling a handful of departures and delaying several others.

The frantic travellers were among thousands across Canada dealing with what the airline has described as an "illegal job action," which is expected to cause disruptions throughout the day and on Saturday as well.

Air Canada posted a travel advisory on its website instructing customers to check their flight status before heading to the airport, and promising to make "every effort to re-accommodate affected customers on alternate flights."

Five Air Canada departures at YVR had been cancelled by 11 a.m., including two flights to Kelowna, two to Toronto and one to Calgary, and several others had been delayed.

Airline spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick to Friday morning that about 60 of the 660 mainline flights had been affected across the country.

The Air Canada Pilots Association says it did not initiate and does not support the job action, and has urged union members not to participate.

Another so-called "sick out" was staged less than one month ago, resulting in another batch of cancelled flights. Analysts say the move was a response to the Conservative government's back-to-work legislation that passed in early March.

The bill was intended to prevent labour disruptions as Air Canada negotiates new contracts for pilots and ground crews.

To check the status of your flight, visit the Air Canada website or call the automated flight information system at 1-888-422-7533.